The Han empire began in 206 B.C. when rebel leader named Liu Bang
defeated the Qin army, and as a result, he overtook the throne as
Emperor Gaozu. The end of the Qin was part of a larger rebellion that
began after the First Emperor's death. The tyranny of Qin's leaders and
their Legalist standings were no longer being tolerated by its people.
According to traditional Chinese history, the Han amended its form of
governing to include a doctrine of Confucian principles, which stressed
unity of father/son/family, and the worship of its ancestors. In effect,
the Han was noted for its expanding of national territory and for
promoting its literature and arts.
The Han, under one of its many rulers, Wu Ti (140 87 B.C.) succeeded to
unify China by expanding its military prowess across the borders of
other regions of Asia, diminishing the powers of imperial nobility.
Eventually, Wu Ti moved the capital from Xi'an to Luoyang in the east,
forging an era called the Eastern Han.
However, there are records to indicate that there were two Han
Dynasties, each being repudiated by the other Han descendents. The Early
Han (Western) dates 207 - 25 AD, and history books suggest that at the
demise of the ruler Yuan Ti (in 32 B.C.?), his widow used her influence
to appoint family members, and eventually a nephew, Wang Mang was made
emperor, forming the Xin (New Dynasty?). However, that was short-lived
(22 AD), when Mang was killed in an uprising, to be succeeded by
Kuang-wu Ti in 23 AD, forging the the second Han era called Later Han
Restoration (Eastern) from AD 23 -220.
Confucius theory became part of the Legalist form of governing. For
example, administrators and other students were educated through a newly
established Imperial Academy, where students were to study a variety of
Confucian classics, and other courses to end in an examination. If the
student passed the exam, he was appointed to a governing post. If the
student had failed the exam, he was likely beheaded. This course of
exams became known as the start of the civil service examination system.
Wealthy families began to advance in education, and to a degree, became
historians in their own right...with the creation of an encyclopedia and
other works. With the support of Wu Ti, A well-known historian, Sima
Qian, created the first great work, called the Historical Records, that
would become a standard model for the next 2,000 years.
During the Han, a trade route called the Silk Road was built to expand
trade between China and the Roman Empire. The Silk Road actually
consisted of more than one possible route through the mountains that the
traders followed. Agriculture grew with the development of better tools.
Harvesting silkworms and weaving silk for trade was important to the
Han's economy. Additionally iron and salt were big commodities during this
era. This helped create a mass of wealth among traders, eventually
forming a surplus system, however, it failed shortly after its was
The second Han Dynasty had much success with their foreign policy. Part
of this success was due more to luck than to anything the Han did. The
Hsiung nu who had previously been one of the most dangerous enemies of
the Chinese were defeated by the Hsien-pi and the Wu-huan. Half of the
Hsiung nu moved south, and became part of the Chinese empire. The Hsiung
nu appeared to be trying to reunite and form a large empire comprising
all of Turkestan. Thus, in 73 A.D. the Chinese began a campaign in
Turkestan. The whole of Turkestan was quickly conquered which would have
ensured a trading monopoly, however, the emperor Ming Ti died and Chang
Ti became emperor. He favored an isolationist policy so that much of
what was gained in Turkestan was now lost. Pan Ch'ao, the deputy
commander who had led the invasion, stayed in Turkestan to try and hold
onto what had been won, and eventually in 89 A.D. a new emperor came to
power with a renewed interest in holding Turkestan. Despite this
military success, economic and political struggles arose within China.
Internal struggles for power taxed the peasants, until in 184 A.D. when
another peasant uprising occurred. This movement was begun by the Yellow
Turbans. This uprising served to unite the factions who had previously
been fighting one another because they needed to unite to defeat the
Yellow Turbans. Despite conquering them, China did not return to a
united state. Rather, three kingdoms emerged and the Han dynasty came to
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